Monday, June 25, 2012

DnD Spells: Shape Change

Shape Change is a ninth level Magic-User spell that evokes remembrances of that wonderful wizard's duel in the Disney film, The Sword In The Stone. 

Like the Magic-User spell, Gate, it's a shame this spell is reserved for high-level Magic-Users, as it would be fun to play out a wizard duel at low to mid-levels.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

David Trampier's Gamma World Cover

Sure, I like the Erol Otus Gamma World art well enough, but I still prefer the David Trampier Gamma World Cover.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Hilarious House Of Frightenstein

Where else was a six-year old supposed to go for his horror-fix?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Second Generation DnD Illustrators

I consider Parkinson, Elmore and Caldwell to be premiere members of the second generation of DnD illustrators.  Technically proficient, that group of artists raised the bar when it came to the quality of art appearing in Dungeons and Dragons publications.

But while they brought a more professional look to DnD game materials, their skill came at too high a price.  Dungeons and Dragons art became increasingly disconnected from the game itself.

Fewer and fewer covers and interior illustrations reflected what Dungeons and Dragons was all about. 

Instead, we had posing and posturing of highly fantasized personalities. 

Here are three illustrations, by Parkinson, Elmore and Caldwell, gracing the covers of Dragon Magazines, that are representative of the second generation of Dungeons and Dragons art.

Yes, these are excellent examples of fantasy art, but none provide any insight into, or reflect the major themes of, Dungeons and Dragons.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Three-Dollar ADnD Players Handbook

Sometimes its just a matter of right place, right time. 

I've mentioned before that there are a couple of charity booksales in Calgary, one sponsored by our local public radio station, CBC 1010, and the other by our local daily newspaper, The Calgary Herald.

I took a couple of hours off, yesterday to visit the Calgary Herald booksale, and came across this almost pristine copy of the ADnD Players Handbook.  I'm not sure that it has even been opened, as the binding was so tight it made a soft cracking sound when I opened it.

And they sold the PHB to me for $3.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

DnD Spells: Gate

"Jagreen Lern has succeeded in making a sizable breach in the Law-constructed barrier which has hitherto kept the creatures of Chaos from wholly ruling our planet.  He is forever widening this breach as his power increases.  This explains how he could summon such a mighty assembly of Hell's nobility where, in the past, it was hard to bring even one of the Dukes of Hell to our plane."

-- Michael Moorcock, "Stormbringer"

Few of the DnD campaigns that I participated in ever reached the player character levels necessary to access ninth level magic-user spells.  One of those spells, Gate, permits the magic-user to open a gate to another plane and entreat a powerful entity to come to the caster's aid.

I've always wanted to include scrolls with spells like this, as treasure.  To have a powerful one-shot item that the players could use, in this case, to gate in a powerful entity, would be handy for those occasions where the party is overmatched and otherwise needs some deus-ex-machina intervention by the DM to survive.

The problem is that a lower-level magic user are more apt to write the spell into their spell-book (for use when they reach the necessary level) as keep the scroll as a one-use item, thus defeating the point of scrolls as one-shot magic items.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Dwellers Under The Tombs

The final page of Jonas Kiles' journal:

"I wonder how Jacob Kiles discovered these subterranean ways?  He did not construct them.They were carved out of dim caverns and solid rock by the hands of forgotten men -- how long ago I dare not venture a conjecture. 

While hiding here, waiting for the time to be ripe, I have amused myself by exploring them.  I have found they are far more extensive than I had suspected.  The hills must be honeycombed with them, and they sink into the earth at an incredible depth, tier below tier, like the stories of a building, each tier connected with the one below by a single stairway.

Old Jacob Kiles must have used these tunnels, at least those of the upper tiers, for the storing of plunder and contraband.  He built the entrance tomb to mask his real activities, and of course cut the secret entrance, a stone door hung on a pivot.  He must have discovered the burrows by means of the hidden entrance at Smuggler's Point.  The concealed door he constructed there was a mess of rotting splinters and rusting metal when I found it.  As no one ever discovered it after him, it is not likely anyone will find the new door which I built with my own hands, to replace the old one.

I have wondered much as to the identity of the race which must have once inhabited these labyrinths.  I have found no bones or skulls, though I have discovered, in the upper tiers, curiously hardened copper implements.  On the next few tiers I have found stone implements, down to the tenth tier, where they disappeared.

Also, on the topmost tiers, I found portions of walls decorated with paintings, faded but evidencing great skill.  The picture paintings on lower tiers were cruder than those of the tiers above, until the last paintings were but meaningless daubs, such as an ape might make with a paintbrush.  One gets a fantastic impression of an imprisoned race, burrowing deeper and deeper into the black earth, century by century, and losing more of their human attributes as they sank to each new level.

The fifteenth tier is without rhyme or reason, the tunnels running aimlessly, without apparent plan -- so striking a contrast to the top-most tiers, a triumph of ancient architecture, that it is difficult to believe them to have been constructed by the same race.  Many centuries must have elapsed during the building of the tiers, and the builders must have become greatly degraded.

But the fifteenth tier is not the end of these mysterious burrows.  The doorway opening on the single stairway at the lowest tier was blocked by stones.  Prompted by curiosity, I cleared away the debris, in spite of the tax it was on my strength, and opened a hole, this very day, although I did not have time to explore what lay beneath.  Indeed I doubt I could do so, for my light showed me not the usual series of stone steps, but a steep smooth shaft leading down into the blackness.

Into what unthinkable pits it leads I do not care to even guess.  For some reason, the realization that the fifteenth tier descent is not a stepped shaft gives me a strange creepy feeling, and led me to fantastic conjectures regarding the ultimate fate of the race that once inhabited these hills.  I had supposed that the diggers, sinking lower and lower in the scale of life, had become extinct in the lower tiers, although I have found no remains to justify my theories.

Tonight I leave this infernal retreat forever.  Nor will I be sorry, for the eternal darkness and silence are beginning to shake even my iron nerves.  I am becoming imaginative: even as I write, I seem to hear stealthy sounds, as of things creeping up from below."

-- Robert E. Howard, "The Dwellers Under The Tombs"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dragon Magazine Collection: June 2012

Still busy filling holes in my Dragon Magazine collection. I came across another six missing Dragon Magazines, and also decided I might as well expand my collection past issue 145.

I've been looking for Dragon Magazine issue 140 for a while now.  It features one of the few Larry Elmore illustrations that I consider to be Dungeons and Dragons art.  In this case, a female cleric healing a stricken warrior.  It's an imperfect illustration, from an old-school perspective, since the depicted scene is almost entirely devoid of menace.  The female cleric seems unconcerned by the proximity of the giant, and the giant's glance towards the cleric seems half-hearted.

You can't help but be impressed, though, with Elmore's skill and attention to detail.  Consider the treatment given to helmets, weapons, chainmail and how the snow interfaces with the two human subjects.

Appendix N: June 2012

Abbey, Lynn:

Adams, Richard: Watership Down; Shardik

Alexander, Lloyd: The Book of Three 1; The Black Cauldron 2; The Castle of Llyr 3; Taran Wanderer 4; The High King 5

Anderson, Poul: Ensign Flandry; Flandry Of Terra; Agent of the Terran Empire; The Long Night; Three Hearts and Three Lions; The Broken Sword; The High Crusade; A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows; The Last Viking 1

Anthony, Piers: A Spell for Chameleon; On A Pale Horse

Ariosto, Ludovico: Orlando Furioso

Asprin, Robert A.: Thieves World I; Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn II; Shadows of Sanctuary III; Storm Season IV; The Face of Chaos V; Another Fine Myth

Barker, M.A.R.: The Man Of Gold; Flamesong

Baum, L. Frank: The Wizard Of Oz, Emerald City Of Oz, Land of Oz

Beagle, Peter S.: The Last Unicorn; A Fine And Private Place

Bellairs, John: The Face In The Frost

Bellamy, Francis R : Atta

Bloodstone, John: Thundar Man Of Two Worlds

Bloch, Robert:  Strange Eons

Bok, Hannes: The Sorcerers Ship

Brackett, Leigh: Eric John Stark, Outlaw Of Mars; The Best Of Leigh Brackett; The Sword Of Rhiannon; The Ginger Star 1; The Hounds Of Skaith 2; Reavers of Skaith 3

Bradley, Marion Z: Warrior Women; Sword and Sorceress Anthology; The Planet Savers 1958; The Sword Of Aldones 1962; The Boody Sun 1964; Star Of Danger 1965; The Winds Of Darkover 1970; The Forbidden Tower 1977; Stormqueen! 1978; Seven From The Stars;

Brooks, Terry: The Sword of Shannara

Brown, Fredric:

Brunner, John:  Secret Agent Of Terra;

Burroughs, Edgar R.: Pellucidar; Tanar of Pellucidar; A Princess Of Mars 1; The Gods Of Mars 2; Warlord Of Mars 3; Thuvia, Maid Of Mars 4; Chessmen of Mars 5; The Mastermind of Mars 6; A Fighting Man of Mars 7; The Moon Maid; Out of Time’s Abyss; Jungle Girl, Land of Hidden Men; Tarzan Of The Apes 1; The Return Of Tarzan 2; The Beasts of Tarzan 3; The Son Of Tarzan 4; Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar 5; Tarzan and the Lost Empire 10; At The Earth's Core

Cabell, James Branch: Figures Of Earth; The Silver Stallion; Jurgen, A Comedy Of Justice; Something About Eve;

Campbell, J Ramsey: Demons by Daylight

Carter, Lin: Thongor and the Dragon City; Thongor and the Wizards of Lemuria; Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus; Zanathon; Tower at the Edge of Time; The Black Star; Beyond The Gates Of Dream; Down To A Sunless Sea; Journey to the Underground World; Warrior of World’s End; Flashing Swords 1; Flashing Swords 2; Flashing Swords 3; Flashing Swords 4; Flashing Swords 5; New Worlds For Old; The Young Magicians; Lost Worlds;

Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote

Chalker, Jack L.: Midnight at the Well of Souls 1; Exiles at the Well of Souls 2; Quest For the Well Of Souls 3; The Return of Nathan Brazil 4, Twilight at the Well of Souls 5

Chandler, A. Bertram: The Road To The Rim; The Hard Way; The Wild Ones; The Inheritors; The Gateway To Never; Star Courier; To Keep The Ship; Matilda's Stepchildren; The Rim Of Space;

Chant, Joy: Red Moon And Black Mountain

Cherryh, C.J.:

Cook, Glen: The Black Company

Daley, Brian: Han Solo At Star’s End; Han Solo’s Revenge; Han Solo And The Lost Legacy

Davidson, Avram: The Phoenix And The Mirror; The Island Under the Earth

deCamp, L. Sprague: The Complete Compleat Enchanter; The Compleat Enchanter; Lovecraft, A Biography; Warlocks and Warriors; The Fallible Fiend; Conan The Barbarian; Conan And The Spider God; Lest Darkness Fall; The Tritonian Ring; The Carnelian Cube; The Emperors Fan; The Reluctant King; The Unbeheaded King; The Goblin Tower; The Clocks Of Iraz; The Queen Of Zamba

Derleth, August: The Trail of Cthuhlu

Dickson, Gordon R.:

Donaldson, Stephen: Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World

Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers

Dunsany, Lord: The King Of Elfland’s Daughter; Over the Hills and Far Away; The Charwoman's Shadow

Eco, Umberto: The Name Of The Rose

Eddings, David: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen Of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, Enchanter’s Endgame

Eddison, E. R.: The Worm Ouroboros; Mistress of Mistresses; A Fish Dinner In Memison

Ende, Michael: The Neverending Story

Farmer, Philip Jose: The Maker Of Universes 1; The Gates Of Creation 2; A Private Cosmos 3; Hadon Of Ancient Opar

Fiest, Raymond: Magician

Finney, Charles: The Unholy City; The Circus of Dr. Lao

Foster, Alan Dean: Nor Crystal Tears, Splinter of the Minds Eye; The End of the Matter; The Tar-Aiym Krang; Bloodhype; Orphan Star; For Love Of Mother-Not; The Time Of The Transference

Fox, Gardner: Kothar Barbarian Swordsman; Kothar and the Conjurer's Curse; Kothar and the Wizard Slayer; Kothar and the Magic Sword; Kothar And The Demon Queen; Kyrik Warlock Warrior; Kyrik Fights The Demon World; Kyrik and the Lost Queen; Kyrik and the Wizards Sword; Warrior Of Llarn

Funke, Cornelia: Inkheart

Gardner, Craig Shaw: A Malady Of Magicks

Garner, Alan: Elidor; The Moon Of Gomrath; The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

Gemmell, David: Legend

Goldman, William: The Princess Bride

Glut, Donald F: The Empire Strikes Back

Gygax, Gary: City Of Hawks; The Samarkand Solution; The Anubis Murders; Infernal Sorceress; Death In Delhi; City Of Hawks

Haggard, H. Rider: The People Of The Mist; The World's Desire; When The World Shook; She And Allan; King Solomon Mines; She

Hambly, Barbara: The Time of the Dark; The Walls Of Air, The Armies of Daylight; The Ladies of Mandrigyn, Dragonsbane

Harrison, Harry: The Adventures Of The Stainless Street Rat; The Stainless Steel Rat

Heinlein, Robert: Glory Road

Hickman, Tracy:

Hodgson, W.H.: The House On The Borderland

Holmes, John Eric: Mahars of Pellucidar

Howard, Robert E.: Cthulhu; Sword Woman; Almuric; The People Of The Black Circle; Red Nails; Shadow Kingdoms; People Of The Dark; Beyond The Black River; The Hour Of The Dragon; Black Hounds Of Death; Conan 1; Conan Of Cimmeria 2; Conan the Freebooter 3; Conan the Wanderer 4; Conan the Adventurer 5; Conan the Buccaneer 6; Conan The Warrior 7; Conan The Usurper 8; Conan The Conqueror 9; Conan The Avenger 10; Conan Of Aquilonia 11; Conan of The Isles 12; Solomon Kane, The Hills Of The Dead; Skull-Face; Black Canaan; Swords Of Shahrazar; Marchers Of Valhalla, The Book Of Robert E. Howard; The Second Book Of Robert E. Howard; Bran Mak Morn; Son Of The White Wolf; The Last Ride; The Lost Valley Of Iskander; Black Vulmea's Vengeance; The Vultures Of Whapeton

Hyne, C J Cutliffe: The Lost Continent

Jakes, John: Brak The Barbarian; Mark of Demons; The Sorceress; The Fortunes Of Brak

Jackson, Steve: Fighting Fantasy; The Warlock of Firetop Mountain 1; The Citadel of Chaos 2; The Forest Of Doom 3; Deathtrap Dungeon 6; Curse Of The Mummy 27; Armies Of Death 36

Kline, Otis Adelbert: Swordsman Of Mars, Outlaw Of Mars, Planet of Peril

Kuttner, Henry: The Mask Of Circe; Elak Of Atlantis, The Dark World, Robots Have No Tails

Kurtz, Katherine: Deryni Rising; Deryni Checkmate; High Deryni

Lanier, Sterling: Hiero’s Journey; The Unforsaken Hiero

L’Engle, Madeleine: A Wrinkle In Time

Le Guin, Ursula: A Wizard Of Earthsea; The Left Hand Of Darkness; Tehanu; The Farthest Shore

Lee, Tanith: The Book Of The Damned I; The Book Of The Beast II; The Storm Lord, The Birthgrave, The Dragon Hoard, Night’s Master, Death’s Master

Leiber, Fritz: Swords and Deviltry 1; Swords Against Death 2; Swords In The Mist 3; Swords And Wizardry 4; The Swords of Lankhmar 5; Swords and Ice Magic 6; The Knight and Knave of Swords; Heroes And Horrors

Lewis, C.S.:  The Voyage Of The Dawntreader; The Silver Chair

Lindsay, David: A Voyage To Arcturus

Livingston, Ian:  The Forest Of Doom3, Deathtrap Dungeon 3; Armies Of Death 36; Curse Of The Mummy 27;

Lovecraft, H.P.: The Doom That Came To Sarnath; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath; The Shadow Over Innsmouth; At The Mountains Of Madness; The Lurker At The Threshold; The Tomb; The Watchers Out Of Time; Waking Up Screaming; The Dunwich Horror

Lumley, Brian: The Burrowers Beneath; The Transition Of Titus Crow

Martin, George R.R.: Dying Of The Light; A Song Of Ice And Fire

Matheson, Richard: I Am Legend

McCaffery, Anne: The Ship Who Sang; Dinosaur Planet; Dragonflight 1

Merritt, A.: The Ship Of Ishtar; The Seven Footprints Of Satan; The Moon Pool; The Face In The Abyss; Dwellers In the Mirage; Creep Shadow Creep

Miller, Walter: A Canticle For Leibowitz

Moorcock, Michael: Legends From The End Of Time; The Jewel In The Skull; The Mad God’s Amulet; The Sleeping Sorceress; The Runestaff; The Lord of the Spiders; The Masters of the Pit; The City of the Beast; The Warlord of the Air; Stealer Of Souls; Stormbringer; Elric of Melnibone; Elric At The End Of Time; The King Of Swords 3; Sword of the Dawn; The Sailor On The Seas Of Fate; The Sword Of The Dawn

Moore, C.L.: Northwest Smith; Jirel Of Joiry

Morris, Janet: High Couch of Silistra

Morris, William: The Well At Worlds End I; The Well At Worlds End II; The Wood Beyond the World; The Water of the Wondrous Isles

Mundy, Talbot: Tros Of Samothrace; Avenging Liafail 2; Liafail3; The Praetor's Dungeon 3; The Purple Pirate 6

Niven, Larry: The Man-Kzin Wars; A World Out Of Time; A Gift From Earth; Tales of Known Space; Neutron Star; The Magic May Return; The Magic Goes Away; The Flight of the Horse

Norman, John: Tarnsman Of Gor 1; Outlaw Of Gor 2; Priest-Kings Of Gor 3; Nomads Of Gor 4; Assassin Of Gor 5; Raiders Of Gor 6; Captive Of Gor 7; Hunters Of Gor 8; Marauders Of Gor 9, Tribesmen Of Gor 10, Slave Girl of Gor 11; Time Slave

Norton, Andre: Quag Keep; Exiles of the Stars; Warlock of Witch World; High Sorcery; Witch World; Sargasso Of Space; Lord Of Thunder

Nowlan, Philip F.: Armageddon 2419 A.D.

Offutt, Andrew J.: Demon In The Mirror; Eyes Of Sarsis; Web Of The Spider; Conan, The Sword of Skelos; Conan The Mercenary; Swords Against Darkness I; Swords Against Darkness II; Swords Against Darkness III; Swords Against Darkness IV; Swords Against Darkness V; The Iron Lords 1; Shadows Out Of Hell 2; The Lady Of The Snowmist 3; The Undying Wizard; Cormac Mac Art;

Piper, H. Beam: Space Viking

Pratchett, Terry: The Colour Of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort

Pratt, Fletcher: Land Of Unreason; The Blue Star; The Well of the Unicorn; The Carnelian Cube

Saberhagen, Fred: The First Book Of Swords; Second Book Of Swords; Third Book Of Swords; Empire Of The East

Salmonson, Jessica:  Amazons!

Schmitz, James: The Witches of Karres; The Demon Breed

Shackleford, Jack D.: Tanith

Shea, Michael: Color Out Of Time; A Quest For Simbilis; Nifft The Lean; The Incompleat Nifft; The Mines of Behemoth; The A`Rak

Sims, John:

Sirota, Mike: Master Of Boranga

Smith, Clark Ashton: Lost Worlds Volume 1; Lost Worlds Volume 2; Out Of Space And Time 1; Out Of Space And Time 2; The Abominations of Yondo; Genius Loci; Poseidonis; Zothique; Hyperborea; Xiccarph; Tales Of Science And Sorcery; Other Dimensions 1; Other Dimensions 2

Smith, David:  Red Sonja 3, When Hell Laughs;

Smith, L. Neil: Lando Calrissian and the Midharp of Sharu; Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of Thonboka; Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Osean

Smith, E.E. ‘Doc’: Triplanetary

Springer, Nancy: The White Hart; The Silver Sun

St. Clair, Margaret: The Shadow People; Sign of the Labrys

Stasheff, Christopher: The Warlock Wandering; The Warlock Rock; A Warlock's Blade; Warlock And Son; The Warlock Is Missing; Her Majesty's Wizard; King Kobold

Stewart, Mary: The Crystal Cave; The Hollow Hills; The Last Enchantment

Swann, Thomas: Green Phoenix; The Goat Without Horns; The Forest Of Forever; Day Of The Minotaur; Cry Silver Bells; Moondust; The Gods Abide

Tierney, Richard:  Red Sonja 3, When Hell Laughs;

Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Hobbit; The Lord Of The Rings

Tubb, E.C.: The Winds Of Gath 1; Derai 2; Toyman 3; Kalin 4; Jester Of Scar 5; Lallia 6; Technos 7; Veruchia 8; Mayenne 9; Jondelle 10; Zenya 11; Eloise 12;

Van Arnam, Dave: Star Barbarian

Van Vogt, A.E.: The Voyage Of The Space Beagle; Quest For The Future

Vance, Jack: The Languages Of The Pao; The Dragon Masters; The Best of Jack Vance; The Dying Earth; The Eyes of the Overworld; Cugel’s Saga; Rhialto The Marvelous; Trullion, Alastor 2262; Wyst, Alastor 1716; Marune, Alastor 933; The Faceless Man 1; The Brave Free Men 2; The Astura 3; Lyonesse 1; The Green Pearl 2; Madouc 3; The Face 4; The Blue World; Galactic Effectuator; Big Planet; City Of The Chasch 1; Servants of the Wanhk 2; The Dirdir 3; The Pnume 4; Suldrun's Garden; The Face 4; The Last Castle

Verne, Jules: The Mysterious Island; A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth;

Wagner, Karl E: Bloodstone, Death Angel’s Shadow, Dark Crusade

Weinbaum, Stanley; The Black Flame; A Martian Odyssey

Wellman, Manly Wade: The Old Gods Waken; The Hanging Stones; The Lost And The Lurking; After Dark; Silver John; Who Fears The Devil?

White, Theodore: The Once and Future King

Williams, Robert M.: Return of Jongor

Williamson, Jack: The Trial Of Terra; The Legion Of Space

Wolfe, Gene: The Shadow of the Torturer

Zelazny, Roger: Nine Princes In Amber; The Guns of Avalon; Sign of the Unicorn; The Hand of Oberon; The Courts of Chaos; Jack Of Shadows; Dilvish, The Damned; The Changing Land; Isle of the Dead; Trumps of Doom; Blood Of Amber; Sign Of Chaos; Knight Of Shadows; Prince of Chaos, The Chronicles Of Amber 1

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Hobbit Movie - New Production Video

I'm busy as all get-out, but not too busy to share the most recent production video for The Hobbit Movie.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Arduin Adventure Listed On eBay

And the opening bid is $9.99.  If you are curious about this ephemera (and not because the Arduin Adventure is useful for anything other than perspective), check out the listing.  A copy of the rulebook is also being auctioned off in a separate listing.  Neither of those auctions are mine, but I know, with the recent interest in all things Arduin, that someone may find those listings timely.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

At The Risk Of Fanning The Edition Wars...

Dwarves And Mattocks

"The dwarves are exceedingly strong for their height, but most of these were strong even for dwarves. In battle they wielded heavy two-handed mattocks; but each of them had also a short broad sword at his side and a round shield slung at his back. Their beards were forked and plaited and thrust into their belts. Their caps were of iron and they were shod with iron, and their faces were grim....

The elves were the first to charge. Their hatred for the goblins is cold and bitter. Their spears and swords shone in the gloom with a gleam of chill flame, so deadly was the wrath of the hands that held them. As soon as the host of their enemies was dense in the valley, they sent against it a shower of arrows, and each flickered as it fled as if with stinging fire. Behind the arrows a thousand of their spearmen leapt down and charged. The yells were deafening. The rocks were stained black with goblin blood.

Just as the goblins were recovering from the onslaught and the elf-charge was halted, there rose from across the valley a deep-throated roar. With cries of "Moria!" and "Dain, Dain!" the dwarves of the Iron Hills plunged in, wielding their mattocks, upon the other side; and beside them came the men of the Lake with long swords. Panic came upon the Goblins; and even as they turned to meet this new attack, the elves charged again with renewed numbers. Already many of the goblins were flying back down the river to escape from the trap: and many of their own wolves were turning upon them and rending the dead and the wounded."

- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Chapter 17, The Clouds Burst

Saturday, June 2, 2012

All Bound For Mu Mu Land

Warning! The fall of the Empire and the death of the little Mu are imminent...

Marc Miller's Traveller 5 Kickstarter

Marc Miller has introduced a Traveller 5 Kickstarter project. 

This is exciting news, for those of us who fondly remember classic Traveller, and Marc has promised to update and modernize this fantastic old-school game.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Is This An Effective Survey?

The DND:Next open playtest survey has been posted.  Take a few minutes and take the survey, if you want to make your voice heard.

The first question is not terribly useful.  Instead of asking how long you have played, they should be asking which editions of DnD you have played.
The next question asks which edition of DnD is your favorite.  Not a terribly good question, since the survey does not delve deeper, into WHY that is your favorite edition.  What game feature(s) make it your favorite?  It is unclear what this question will measure: how do they intend to cross-reference this question with data WOTC collects in later questions?  If i've only ever played 4E, can I provide any useful data by responding to this question?
Next, WOTC asks what kind of player you are: power-gamer, explorer, thinker, actor, and so on.  You can choose more than one category.  I don't see a lot of value in this question.  Remember, this is a self-selecting questionnaire.  WOTC is bound to get a preponderance of responses from gamers that enjoy 4E, so that play-style will be over-represented in the results.
There is a set of questions asking for your level of satisfaction with various rules in the open playtest package.  Interestingly, there is a question asking if there is a sufficient amount of simulation in the ruleset.  Thankfully, they provide a comment box where you can give additional feedback.
It's hard for me to evaluate the dangerousness of the monsters, since that all depends on your DM and playstyle.  Make up your own mind on the amount of healing, I certainly have strong views on that subject.
This is really starting to sound like design-by-committee.  Hmmm, so if you are an old-school player, how are you likely to response to the hit point question?  How about the power-gamer?  Just design a good game already, and stop worrying about this stuff, or do what you promised to at the outset, and make the game modular so game-groups can start characters with fewer or more hit points.

More game balance BS.  And battle-grid questions.  I thought DnD:Next was going to provide gridless combat options.  Has that ALREADY gone out the window?
I ask because the above question is perhaps the most provocative of the survey questions.  Why announce that the grid will be optional, and then drop that bomb on us?

Some good questions to determine your capacity to evaluate the new ruleset, from a DMing point of view.  Hopefully the cross-reference the subsequent answers with the DM's stated experience.
The above questions posed to the DM are quite revealing, as they confirm that clarity and ease-of-use are two design goals related to DM resources.

The DnD:Next designers seem hopelessly entangled in the gamist model.  The above player character questions focus on gamist concerns.  It would be refreshing to see questions asking whether the character's special features adequately simulated reality, or allowed the player to get into character.

How do you answer the question about the feel of a class?  Particularly if all the respondent has experience with is 4E, and maybe 3E?  This is why I have a problem with this survey structure.  You are asking for feedback from people, some of whom may have NO IDEA what the Cleric "feels" like, across the entire history of DnD.  You need to cross-reference this, and the other character questions, against the earlier question regarding the number of years a respondent has played DnD (or better, number of editions).

The game designers seem terribly concerned about giving the Fighters "interesting things to do" in combat.  They don't seem concerned that Fighers have interesting things to do outside of combat.

Having recently read Jack Of Shadows, I would love to see a more "magical" Thief class.  What did they call Thieves in 4E, strikers?  Annoyingly MMORPG of them.  How about a Thief class that emulates the swashbuckler style of character instead?
WOTC is asking for feedback on the hit points and cantrips of the Wizard.  Do the right thing here, people.
The non-human classes get special abilities (traits) and i've already read some reactions to those traits.  It appears that humans get higher ability scores to compensate for their lack of special abilities.
Can you really answer the first of two questions, above, if you havn't played ODnD, ADnD or 2nd Edition?  Come on, WOTC, give your heads a shake.